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Through pure grit and hustle: Entrepreneurs show us what it takes to succeed

  • May 06, 2021

Skyler Reeves started his hospitality career as a barback at trendy nightclubs in Los Angeles. Through hustle, he ascended the ranks and today he owns and operates six restaurants in Arizona.

But last March, at the onset of the pandemic, he thought he would lose everything he had worked for.

According to the National Restaurant Association, 17 percent of restaurants — more than 110,000 establishments — closed permanently or long-term at the end of last year. While Reeves closed his catering business, his other restaurants have made it, and he’s opening a sixth.

“I am happy that what seemed like the end of my career has turned out to be a turning point in the positive direction,” said the owner and operator of the Vivili Restaurant Group, which includes The Barley Hound, Rosa’s Pizzeria and Taco Don’s in Prescott, Arizona.

Reeves, 40, will join four others on May 18 in sharing true, personal stories about entrepreneurship and hustle. Watch the show at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET. Register in advance to receive a reminder at and view it on the Storytellers Project’s Facebook page, YouTube channel or website.

Reeves will be joined by:

  • Gabriella Busch, 60, of Ventura, California.
  • Joseph King Kohn, 32, of Mesa, Arizona.
  • Kitty Hailey of Philadelphia.
  • Sheletta Brundidge, 49, of Milwaukee.

Hailey, a former art teacher-turned-private-detective and author, has a passion for work that helps get innocent people off death row.

“I work to provide justice, or at least a voice, for people who are less recognized than I am,” she said.

Busch, an immigration lawyer with her own law firm, said she believes her story will resonate with young Latinas, some of whom, she said, are facing generational bias and cycles of abuse.

“I was a teen mother, forced to marry at the age of 15 to a man in his 20s,” she said. “Despite being obviously pregnant at the start of my sophomore year in high school, I was determined to graduate with my class and pursue my dream to go to law school.”

Busch, who worked as a 911 emergency manager while in law school and raising her children, credits her career success to mentors, who guided and supported her. Her drive came from her daughters and wanting to be a role model for them.

Brundidge, an author and community activist, has three children on the autism spectrum and will talk about challenges that took her to the brink of despair, and how she persevered.

“I thought about just driving my 9-seater mini-van off a cliff when I woke up one morning with three children who couldn’t talk, make eye contact, follow simple commands or eat solid foods,” she said. “I thought, ‘God, why are you punishing me? What did I do to deserve this?’”

But today, Brundridge says she has turned her misery into a ministry, helping to empower, educate and inspire other parents who have kids on the autism spectrum. 

She has worked with the Department of Health to promote the importance of early testing for autism and intervention in communities of color, and she has partnered with the NFL to create autism sensory-friendly rooms.

King Kohn’s story is about the lessons he learned from his hardworking parents, how he applied those lessons as a young entrepreneur and is now sharing them with his own children.

This virtual storytelling night is part of the Storytellers Project’s 2021 storytelling season, which includes 43 national and regional shows. The series features stories from across the United States told by people coached by USA TODAY Network journalists and professional storytelling experts.

WATCH: Episodes from the Storytellers Project

Learn more about the Storytellers Project and apply to tell a story at

Need to know

Upcoming shows

  • June 8: Fashion and Culture
  • June 15: Fatherhood
  • July 13: Stories about Stories
  • Aug. 17: Travel and Overseas Adventures

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